Whitetail Hunting in South Dakota - A Lesson in Humiliation and Other Things

Whitetail Hunting in South Dakota - A Lesson in Humiliation and Other Things

It must be a low gravity week.

I’m on my feet in a treestand, swaying with the pulverizing north winds that freezes snot to my face. Moments earlier I’d just released my fourth arrow of the trip. And moments earlier I sailed it high over the back of the fourth deer fortunate enough to be within my range.

“Welcome to Fred Bohm’s school of hunter education,” I mumble to the eight point buck as he heads for cover.

The sting of not knowing what I am doing wrong far outweighs the blast of the northerly winds. I just don’t get it. My brain is not making the connection. It’s not allowing me to rationalize what the error is.

Is it an equipment failure? Is my anchor point off? Has my form gone to shit or am I just getting frazzled.

There could be a litany of excuses, but they do me no good. To blame anything but myself is a way of protecting my ego and God knows I need less of that.

bow sight

I ease back into the seat of the stand, trying to let the frustration seep from my body. But I know I’m fooling myself if I think it’ll go away.

This just isn’t fun.

You practice year round and base your life around bowhunting. You take it as seriously as anything ever taken in your life. Commitment wouldn’t begin to describe the obsession you have for this sport and come game time you choke. Four Pick-Sixes in a row and GM is making calls to get you traded.

What’s more is the heckling you know you’ll receive, people chomping at the bit, salivating at the opportunity to ridicule.

But perhaps you deserve it. I mean come on… four misses in a row?

I let the evening play out, damn well knowing the hunting gods don’t give fools a second opportunity to embarrass themselves. They’re too compassionate for that.

lone wolf tree stand

It’s just the way of it man. If you plan on having a long hunting career you better get used to this. Better yet learn to laugh at it and enjoy the humiliation as a character building experience. It’s going to be a long road and if you let something like this bother you. Hunting is going to eat you alive.

The air is a little less bitter as the day turns to evening. The sounds are peaceful enough and I forget that civilization is only a stone’s throw away.

A horde of sparrows clumped together looking for companionship in the desolate skies. They roar overhead. Alone they are silent passersby, but as a group they make the earth shake.

Why does this matter? Are you, Hazel and the kids going to starve if you don’t get a deer? If that were true you would have shot the first animal that walked by. This is a game. It’s as simple as that. It’s a game where the size of the animal you kill determines your pecking order in the tiny circle of friends and fellow hunters. You’re using these animals as social status.

I know it to be true but I don’t care. Hell, everything we do in life determines where we stand compared to the people next to us. It’s all a show for those willing to look in. One big dick swinging contest.

I willingly participate and know I will continue to do so. I know I’m not just out here for the full freezer. It would be a lie that would receive accolades on social media, but would also be complete bullshit that would make me feel like a phony.

I’m here for the challenge. I’m here to see if I can outwit or more likely out-patience an animal that eludes inept humans for a living. And its merit is based on is the size of its headgear.

bow hunter treestand

I continue to hold my bow, enjoying the deep burn as the cold conducts through the aluminum riser and numbs my hand. Just me, my weapon and my thoughts. Nothing could be simpler and nothing could make what’s laid before me more clear.

It doesn’t matter what you kill. The license allows for the life of one deer, it’s up to me to determine which one. Play your game and the law won’t step in. Media will encourage it. Your ego will thank you for it. Excuses on unfilled tags will abound when you’re hunting giants. Everything is rigged to encourage your to participate.

You’re letting your philosophy, which to be honest is non-existent, on trophy hunting distract you from the real problem here. Incompetent shooting and what it is causes. Missed opportunity.

A spike makes his way cautiously down the trail. His head jerks erratically looking for danger or from the suggestions from the voices in his head. Hard to tell.

I eye him over my neck gaiter that’s pulled up to my eyes. A god looking down on a lesser, determining if he’ll make it through the clearing with his life. Or just as likely spooked by an arrow that skims his back given my recent track record.

Such power. Maybe it’s something we revel in because we know there is something looking down on us at the same moment, determining the same thing.

He walks by without as much as a twitch from my bow hand.

By now the night has dug itself in deep. Things that were once clear only become shadows and memories of what should be there.

I make no move to get up. My hunt isn’t over yet.

// Fred Bohm